Heat and cold application can be a helpful tool in managing the symptoms of RA. Have you mulled the idea of using ice or warm compresses to make your joints feel better, but was unsure what you should use so didn’t do anything? Should I use heat? Should I use ice? The answers are simple and unless taken to extreme, heat/cold applications are non-invasive, safe, and helpful for many arthritis sufferers.
In sports medicine Ice is used for an immediate injury such as an ankle sprain. We have all experienced the call for ice after someone falls or is hit in a sports event. When applied to the skin, ice causes the local blood vessels to constrict. This slows down the circulation and will reduce new inflammation and swelling to the affected area.
Ice will also numb the area quieting pain receptors and reducing pain. Ice from the ice chest or a very cold soda can are usually available at a soccer game or similar sports game. It makes ice an easily obtainable, useful remedy. Ice is a short-term effective tool. After a couple of days, ice loses its effectiveness.
Then it may be time to switch to a 0heat application. HEAT will increase blood circulation to the local area. This increased blood supply will carry away excess fluid and debris clearing swelling that is already present. Heat also relaxes the tense muscles and feels soothing. Those with RA find that heat loosens tense muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The heat reduces established swelling. You may use wet or dry heat. We heat penetrates more efficiently. Heat comes from many places. Warm baths. Hand washing the dinner dishes. Paraffin wraps. The shower. Pads heated in the microwave.
To protect the skin, a thin towel should be placed between the skin and the heat source. For moist heat, wet the thin towel before placing it between the skin and the heat source. Avoid excessive heat. Don’t use heat continuously. It will decrease its effectiveness. While you are using the heat, keep your affected part elevated while you are at it.
RICE is part of the standard treatment for a sports injury such as a sprain.
Cold compress 20 min every 4-6 hour for 3 days might.be used for an acute injury like a sprain. Some with an RA flare use ice to calm an unruly joint. The area is temporarily numbed and feels good. Cold should only be used temporarily for a few days.
Years ago, I was fortunate to attend physical therapy for my hands. I learned exercises to keep my hands flexible. The sessions always ended with a paraffin wax treatment. My hands were never happier.